Immortals Cavill Says Superman: “Best Superhero Out There”
Initially it stayed mostly under the radar that our new Superman, Henry Cavill, would be making an appearance at WonderCon this past weekend. He was there to promote his new film from the producers of 300, Immortals, starring Cavill, Luke Evans and Mickey Rourke. But it wasn’t long before conversation in the interview room turned to the Man of Steel.
“There’s nothing intentional about my job choices it’s just what jobs I get offered,” the actor said when asked if he leads himself into new roles with his previous efforts. “I often hear about people saying, ‘Oh, you know, so and so’s choice’ and this or that. I think once you get to a certain level of notoriety and fame where you can open a movie then yes, you are offered scripts and stories and get to choose. Where, certainly at my level you just get the jobs that you’re offered and if it’s a job that you’d like, you go for it but there’s no preplanning. It’s not like I went on Tudors and said, ‘Ok, next I’m going to play a hero for my campaign for Superman,’ it just all happened to happen as it is.”
Newsarama had the chance to chat with stars Cavill, Evans and Isabel Lucas as well as the director of Immortals, Tarsem Singh (The Cell) and producer Marc Canton (300) at the San Francisco convention. The film, from Relativity, is an epic action adventure featuring mythological Gods and the humans they lord over. Singh, who said they’re about a month away from the final cut of the film, told us what Immortals is to him.
“It’s basically about immortality to put it in a nutshell. The hero [Cavill as Theseus], whose story we follow, is basically a nobody who, through his deeds, will be known forever. So his immortality is through means,” said Singh. “And then there’s Mickey [Rourke] who has the Attila the Hun policy, which is knock everything up that you can, you have many, many children and twenty generations down you might recognize your eyes and you’re immortal. The Gods by definition are immortal but they fight with each other, they can lose that too. So I just thought, the Gods were the ones that most can’t relate with but the other two I think is what natures’ fight is all about.”
Evans, who was previously seen in Clash of the Titans, plays the almighty Zeus in the film with Lucas playing Athena, Goddess of War. The actress said she had a tough time stepping into the role of a Goddess, thinking she had to play it extremely regal. She said Tarsem told her, “Be less statuesque, be much more sort of simple and human and moving the way humans would.”
“You have to come into it knowing exactly what it is you want to portray, sometimes it’s easier than other times. For me, this was a hard one,” said Evans. “Purely because he’s historically been played by much older actors. Tarsem wanted this Zeus to have way more layers, not just be this authoritative figure who sits on a throne with an eagle and lightning bolt in his hand.”
“Tarsem really communicated how he wanted it to look to us, so we had an idea of his style as well,” said Lucas. “Of course when you’re doing the green screen work, it takes some imagination.”
Similar to 300, Immortals, filmed the majority of its scenes on green screen, leaving the actors in a learn-as-you-go position. But Singh was very insistent on helping them along.
“In this particular case, when you’re creating a world a lot has to be done before. I don’t believe you go in front of a green screen and leave actors in front of them and just say, ‘ok, we’ll put this thing in the background when they come in,’” he said. “I had the things set. I will show them on a monitor, ‘This is how far you’re talking to this person.’ All the physical things that were dealt with were physically made in front of them.”
Cavill and Evans both agree the set pieces they had on stage helped them a great deal in their acting.
“We had a meaty foreground,” said Cavill. “We worked on sets almost the whole time,” added Evans. “Mount Olympus was elevated in a huge studio, it was marble and it was gigantic. It had staircases all the way up. To me that was enough. I was in Mount Olympus. When I saw it with the green screen, when they put on what was supposed to be there, I couldn’t believe it. The sets were beautifully made and absolutely put me in the space I needed to be in to do the scenes.”
But it wasn’t just the set pieces the director put them on, it was Singh himself who helped the actors get comfortable in their roles.
“I’m full of energy and one of the most taxing things about being on set was the lack of energy we had because we are eating so little and training so hard and trying to fit in training to a fourteen hour day when you have a half hour lunch,” said Cavill, “Finding some minutes when I could finally sit down and eat, it’s really difficult. And you get a bit grumpy and Tarsem on that fifteenth hour on a Friday is the guy who picks you up and keeps you going and pulls that extra performance out of you and it’s remarkable. He sets the standard.”
“It’s just contagious, you just want to match it,” added Evans, “And if you can’t you go away and have a word with yourself and come back and do it. He’s relentless, he doesn’t stop and why should you not match that?”
Cavill said that unlike his role in The Tudors, creating a deep, rich character for a film is a lot more difficult. “Two hours as opposed to fourteen to develop a character and it’s not as easy,” he said. “You want to bring as much depth to it as you possibly can but that sort of depends on the script and whether the story is allowing you to show it.”
The story is not the same but considering Immortals comes from the producers of 300 and retains that general look of men with swords, comparisons will be had. Does the director think so?
“I hope not. All I can say is I think my DNA is different enough,” said Singh. “And basically, if it gets more butts on the seats, for more people to come see what I do, putting it ‘from the producers of 300’ as opposed to saying ‘for the three people who saw The Fall please come,’ I’m ok with that.”
Producer Marc Canton said he was very happy with the audience reaction to the footage they showed at the convention. “Gianni [Nunnari] and myself bought it after we did 300. We were shying away from anymore mythology because honestly, I think Zack [Snyder] set the bar so high that it wasn’t our intention but we really responded to the script and the themes and we both wanted to work with Tarsem. He had a great take on this.”
“I think it’s a good time in the world to discuss these issues about good and evil. I think mortals have free will and they have to fend for themselves no matter what you believe in,” said Canton, “I think that’s what makes this a good story. I think the idea of Gods being mentors, having faith determine…at the end of the day you still have to believe in yourself and the people around you.”
While 300 was based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel, Immortals didn’t have that kind of material to start with. However, it has been announced that comic publisher Archaia has joined with Relativity to publish an original graphic novel based on the film. Archaia says it will expand upon the film’s key characters and events through a series of original tales written and illustrated by recognizable comic names like David Mack, Ron Marz, Dennis Calero and Ben Templesmith. The graphic novel will be published through Archaia’s Black Label division.
What does the producer think about the movie turned graphic novel trend?
“Love it. I think it’s great. When you are based on a graphic novel it’s a lot easier to have source material, this time we didn’t have source material,” said Canton. “Fortunately Tarsem had this visual image of the Caravaggio paintings and really a sense of how to make this into something very specific and original. Because it’s harder when you don’t have a frame of reference. And he knew he didn’t want to do 300, we already did 300.
Mythology obviously plays a big part in Immortals and with Cavill’s superhero role on their minds, the actors can see comparisons between the two.
Evans said that without a doubt, mythology was a precursor to our modern day heroes. “It was the beginning of superheroes, you know, lightning bolts and horses and flying chariots and pulling the sun up in the morning,” he said. “I mean, these stories are intense.”
Cavill noted that superhero stories came from people having difficult times and creating heroes to fix their problems. “This is exactly where mythology came from. It’s the same place, people going through hardship and having these imaginary heroes who would defeat the big bad guy,” he said. “It’s the same thing with mythology, some bastard king who’s killing everyone and raping women, and then they have this imaginary demigod hero who goes and kills his beasty in the Labyrinth and all sorts and that is the same thing, it’s just in a different era.”
Having one of your stars be cast in the role of Superman prior to the release of your film must have the producers elated for the exposure coming their way.
“Well you know, I feel smart, we all do for hanging in with Henry,” said Canton. “The truth is, we cast the sh*t out of 300 and they all emerged and now Gerry [Gerard Butler] and [Michael] Fassbender and Lena Heady, and it’s happening again here. Both Henry and Luke and Kellan Lutz and all these guys and Freida [Pinto], I mean, they’re going to explode. It’s true that when Henry, someone asked me, did I yell when I heard Henry got Superman and I went, ‘Well, I was actually the one that told Zack about him,’ so I guess I had a plan in mind.”
When someone asked Cavill to answer one of his questions in a Kansas accent, he gracefully denied saying, “I shall not,” but did share with Newsarama what he thought his greatest challenge was on Immortals as well as what he thought his biggest challenge would be for Superman.
“Biggest challenge on this one was maintaining the physical shape because it was extraordinary difficult with the hours we had and like I said, fourteen hours minimum with a half hour lunch and you can’t eat that much and you’re in every day. There’s no time to sit back and relax and settle and then have your recovery day and have to go back in. It was nonstop brutal. That was the toughest thing,” he said.
“I think on Superman it will be slightly different because I’ve approached it with the experience of Immortals and I’ve said, ‘Look, guys, I’m going to need recovery time and I’m going to need this, I’m going to need that, if possible, please, please.’ And I think the most difficult thing with Superman is going to be making everyone…doing a true justice to the role while reimagining it.”
While we were wrapping up our interview, someone asked Cavill to sign a Superman action figure. It was his first. Newsarama told the British actor he better get used to it.
“Superman is, I think these days he’s such a universal idea,” said Cavill. “And yes, he was raised in America as a character but I don’t think the Brits see it any different, they see him as the coolest, biggest and best superhero out there.”
Keep an eye out for an Immortals trailer before Thor in May. The graphic novel will be in stores this September while the film hits theaters November 11, 2011.